I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)1Corinthians 9:16, “necessity is laid upon me.”) He must preach the gospel to men of all classes and tongues; Rome itself is no exception.
(14) To the Greeks, and to the Barbarians.—The Apostle does not intend to place the Romans any more in the one class than in the other. He merely means “to all mankind, no matter what their nationality or culture.” The classification is exhaustive. It must be remembered that the Greeks called all who did not speak their own language “Barbarians,” and the Apostle, writing from. Greece, adopts their point of view.
Wise and foolish.—(Comp. 1Corinthians 1:20; 1Corinthians 1:26-28.) The gospel was at first most readily received by the poor and unlearned, but it did not therefore follow that culture and education were by any means excluded. St. Paul himself was a conspicuous instance to the contrary. And so, in the next century, the Church which began with such leaders as Ignatius and Polycarp, could number among its members before the century was out, Irenæus, and Tertullian, and Clement of Alexandria, and Hippolytus, and Origen—the last, the most learned man of his time.
DEBTORS TO ALL MEN
No doubt Paul is here referring to the special obligation laid upon him by his divine call to be the Apostle to the Gentiles. He was entrusted with the Gospel as a steward, and was therefore bound to carry it to all sorts and conditions of men. But the principle underlying the statement applies to all Christians. The indebtedness referred to is no peculiarity of the Apostolic order, but attaches to every believer. Every servant of Jesus Christ, who has received the truth for himself, has received it as a steward, and is, as such, indebted to God, from whom he got the trust, and to the men for whom he got it. The only limit to the obligation is, as Paul says in the context, ‘as much as in me is.’ Capacity, determined by faculties, opportunities, and circumstances, prescribes the kind and the degree of the work to be done in discharge of the obligation; but the obligation is universal. We are not at liberty to choose whether we shall do our part in spreading the name of Jesus Christ. It is a debt that we owe to God and to men. Is that the view of duty which the average Christian man takes? I am afraid it is not. If it were, our treasuries would be full, and great would be the multitude of them that preached the Word.
It is no very exalted degree of virtue to pay our debts. We do not expect to be praised for that; and we do not consider that we are at liberty to choose whether we shall do it or not. We are dishonest if we do not. It is no merit in us to be honest. Would that all Christian people applied that principle to their religion. The world would be different, and the Church would be different, if they did.
Let me try, then, to enforce this thought of indebtedness and of common honesty in discharging the indebtedness, which underlies these words. Paul thought that he went a long way to pay his debts to humanity by carrying to everybody whom he could reach the ‘Name that is above every name.’
I. Now, first, let me say that we Christians are debtors to all men by our common manhood.
It is not the least of the gifts which Christianity has brought to the world, that it has introduced the new thought of the brotherhood of mankind. The very word ‘humanity’ is a Christian coinage, and it was coined to express the new thought that began to throb in men’s hearts, as soon as they accepted the message that Jesus Christ came to give, the message of the Fatherhood of God. For it is on that belief of God’s Fatherhood that the belief of man’s brotherhood rests, and on it alone can it be secured and permanently based.
Here is a Jew writing to Latins in the Greek language. The phenomenon itself is a sign of a new order of things, of the rising of a flood that had surged over, and in the course of ages would sap away and dissolve, the barriers between men. The Apostle points to two of the widest gulfs that separated men, in the words of my text. ‘Greeks and Barbarians’ divides mankind, according to race and language. ‘Wise and unwise’ divides them according to culture and intellectual capacity. Both gulfs exist still, though they have been wonderfully filled up by the influence, direct and indirect, of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The fiercest antagonisms of race which still subsist are felt to belong to a decaying order, and to be sure, sooner or later, to pass away. I suppose that the gulf made by the increased culture of modern society between civilised and the savage peoples, and, within the limits of our own land, the gulf made by education between the higher and the lower layers of our community-I speak not of higher and lower in regard to wealth or station, but in regard to intellectual acquirement and capacity-are greater than, perhaps, they ever were in the past. But yet over the gulf a bridge is thrown, and the gulf itself is being filled up. High above all the superficial distinctions which separate Jew and Gentile, Greek and Barbarian, educated and illiterate, scientific and unscientific, wise and unwise, there stretches the great rainbow of the truth that all are one in Christ Jesus. Fraternity without Fatherhood is a ghastly mockery that ended a hundred years ago in the guillotine, and to-day will end in disappointment; and it is little more than cant. But when Christianity comes and tells us that we have one Father and one Redeemer, then the unity of the race is secured.
And that oneness which makes us debtors to all men is shown to be real by the fact that, beneath all superficial distinctions of culture, race, age, or station, there are the primal necessities and yearnings and possibilities that lie in every human soul. All men, savage or cultivated, breathe the same air, see by the same light, are fed by the same food and drink, have the same yearning hearts, the same lofty aspirations that unfulfilled are torture; the same experience of the same guilt, and, blessed be God! the same Saviour and the same salvation.
Because, then, we are all members of the one family, every man is bound to regard all that he possesses, and is, and can do, as committed to him in stewardship to be imparted to his fellows. We are not sponges to absorb, but we are pipes placed in the spring, that we may give forth the precious water of life.
Cain is not a very good model, but his question is the world’s question, and it implies the expectation of a negative answer-’Am I my brother’s keeper?’ Surely, the very language answers itself, and, although Cain thinks that the only answer is ‘No,’ wisdom sees that the only answer is ‘Yes.’ For if I am my brother’s brother, then surely I am my brother’s keeper. We have a better example. There is another Elder Brother who has come to give to His brethren all that Himself possessed, and we but poorly follow our Master’s pattern unless we feel that the mystic tie which binds us in brotherhood to every man makes us every man’s debtor to the extent of our possessions. That is the Christian truth that underlies the modern Socialistic idea, and, whatever the form in which it is ultimately brought into practice as the rule of mankind, the principle will triumph one day; and we are bound, as Christian men, to hasten the coming of its victory. We are debtors by reason of our common humanity.
II. We are debtors by our possession of the universal salvation.
The principle which I have already been laying down applies all round, to everything that we have, are, or can do. But its most stringent obligation, and the noblest field for its operations, are found in reference to the Christian man’s possession of the Gospel for the joy of his own heart, and to the duties that are therein involved. Christ draws men to Himself for their own sakes, blessed be His name! but not for their own sakes only. He draws them to Himself, that they, in their turn, may draw others with whose hands theirs are linked, and so may swell the numbers of the flock that gathers round the one Shepherd. He puts the dew of His blessing into the chalice of the tiniest flower, that it may ‘share its dewdrop with another near.’ Just as every particle of inert dough as it is leavened becomes in its turn leaven, and the medium for leavening the particle contiguous to it, so every Christian is bound, or, to use the metaphor of my text, is a debtor to God and man, to impart the Gospel of Jesus Christ. ‘Greek and Barbarian,’ says Paul, ‘wise or unwise’; all distinctions vanish. If I can get at a man, no matter what colour, his race, his language, his capacity, his acquirements, he is my creditor, and I am defrauding him of what he has a right to expect from me if I do not do my best to bring him to Jesus Christ.
This obligation receives additional weight from the proved adaptation of the Gospel to all sorts and conditions of men. Alone of all religions has Christianity proved itself capable of dominating every type of character, of influencing every stage of civilisation, of assuming the speech of every tongue, and of wearing the garb of every race. There are other religions which are evidently destined only to a narrow field of operations, and are rigidly limited by geographical conditions, or by stages of civilisation. There are wines that are ruined by a sea voyage, and can only be drunk in the land where the vintage was gathered; and that is the condition of all the ethnic religions. Christianity alone passes through the whole earth, and influences all men. The history of missions shows us that. There has yet to be found the race that is incapable of receiving, or is beyond the need of possessing, or cannot be elevated by the operation of, the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
So to all men we are bound, as much as in us is, to carry the Gospel. The distinction that is drawn so often by the people who never move a finger to help the heathen either at home or abroad, between the home and the foreign field of work, vanishes altogether when we stand at the true Christian standpoint. Here is a man who wants the Gospel; I have it; I can give it to him. That constitutes a summons as imperative as if we were called by name from Heaven, and bade to go, and as much as in us is to preach the Gospel. Brethren! we do not obey the command, ‘Owe no man anything,’ unless, to the extent of our ability, or over the whole field which we can influence at home or abroad, we seek to spread the name of Christ and the salvation that is in Him.
III. We are debtors by benefits received.
I am speaking to men and women a very large proportion of whom get their living, and some of whom amass their wealth, by trade with lands that need the Gospel. It is not for nothing that England has won the great empire that she possesses-won it, alas! far too often by deeds that will not bear investigation in the light of Christian principle, but won it.
What do we owe to the lands that we call ‘heathen’ ? The very speech by which we communicate with one another; the beginning of our civilisation; wide fields for expanding population and emigration; treasures of wisdom of many kinds; an empire about which we are too fond of crowing and too reluctant to recognise its responsibilities-and Manchester its commerce and prosperity! Did God put us where we are as a nation only in order that we might carry the gifts of our literature, great as that is; of our science, great as that is; of our law, blessed as that is; of our manufactures, to those distant lands? The best thing that we can give is the thing that all of us can help to give-the Gospel of Jesus Christ. ‘Who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?’
IV. Lastly, we are debtors by injuries inflicted.
Many subject-races seem destined to fade away by contact with our race; and if we think of the nameless cruelties, and the iliad of woes which England’s possession of this great Colonial Empire has had accompanying it, we may feel that the harm in many aspects outweighs the good, and that it had been better for these men to be left suckled in creeds outworn, and ignorant of our civilisation, than to receive from us the fatal gifts that they often have received. I do not wish to exaggerate, but if you will take the facts of the case as brought out by people that have no Christian prejudices to serve, I think you will acknowledge that we as a nation owe a debt of reparation to the barbarians and the unwise.
What about killing African tribes by the thousand with the vile stuff that we call rum, and send to them in exchange for their poor commodities? What about introducing new diseases, the offspring of vice, into the South Sea Islands, decimating and all but destroying the population? Is it not true that, as the prophet wailed of old about a degenerate Israel, we may wail about the beach-combers and other loafers that go amongst savage lands from England-’Through you the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles.’ A Hindoo once said to a missionary, ‘Your Book is very good. If you were as good as your Book you would conquer India in five years.’ That may be true or it may not, but it gives us the impression that is produced by godless Englishmen on heathen peoples. We are taking away their religion from them, necessarily, as the result of education and contact with European thought. And if we do not substitute for it the one faith that elevates and saves, the last state of that man will be worse than the first.
We can almost hear the rattle of the guns on the north-west frontier of India to-day. There is another specimen of the injuries inflicted. This is not the place to talk politics, but I feel that this is the place to ask this question, ‘Are Christian principles to have anything to do in determining national actions?’ Is it Christian to impose our yoke on unwilling tribes who have as deep a love for independence as the proudest Englishmen of us all, and as good a right to it? Are punitive expeditions and Maxim guns instalments of our debt to all men? I wonder what Jesus Christ, who died for Afridis and Orakzais and all the rest of them, thinks about such conduct?
Brethren, we are debtors to all men. Let us do our best to influence national action in accordance with the brotherhood which has been revealed to us by the Elder Brother of us all; and let us, at least for our own parts, recognise, and, as much as in us is, discharge the debt which, by our common humanity, and by our possession of the universal Gospel we owe to all men, and which is made more weighty by the benefits we receive from many, and by the injuries which England has inflicted on not a few. Else shall we hear rise above all the voices that palliate crime, on the plea of ‘State necessity,’ the stern words of the Master, ‘In thy skirts is found the blood of the souls of poor innocents.’ We are debtors; let us pay our debts.Acts 9:15; Romans 11:13, and he did not feel that he had discharged the obligation until he had made the gospel known as far as possible among all the nations of the earth.
To the Greeks - This term properly denotes "those who dwelt in Greece." But as the Greeks were the most polished people of antiquity, the term came to be synonymous with the polished, the refined, the wise, as opposed to barbarians. In this place it doubtless means the same as "the wise," and includes the Romans also, as it cannot be supposed that Paul would designate the Romans as barbarians. Besides, the Romans claimed an origin from Greece, and Dionysius Halicarnassus (book i.) shows that the Italian and Roman people were of Greek descent.
Barbarians - All who were not included under the general name of Greeks. Thus, Ammonius says that "all who were not Greeks were barbarians." This term "barbarian," Βάρβαρος Barbaros, properly denotes one who speaks a foreign language, a foreigner, and the Greeks applied it to all who did not use their tongue; compare 1 Corinthians 14:11, "I shall be unto him that speaketh, a barbarian, etc. that is, I shall speak a language which he cannot understand. The word did not, therefore, of necessity denote any rusticity of manners, or any lack of refinement.
To the wise - To those who esteemed themselves to be wise, or who boasted of their wisdom. The term is synonymous with "the Greeks," who prided themselves much in their wisdom. 1 Corinthians 1:22, "the Greeks seek after wisdom;" compare 1 Corinthians 1:19; 1 Corinthians 3:18-19; 1 Corinthians 4:10; 2 Corinthians 11:19.
Unwise - Those who were regarded as the ignorant and unpolished part of mankind. The expression is equivalent to ours, 'to the learned and the unlearned.' It was an evidence of the proper spirit to be willing to preach the gospel to either. The gospel claims to have power to instruct all mankind, and they who are called to preach it, should be able to instruct those who esteem themselves to be wise, and who are endowed with science, learning, and talent; and they should be willing to labor to enlighten the most obscure, ignorant, and degraded portions of the race. This is the true spirit of the Christian ministry.
So, as much as in me is - As far as opportunity may be offered, and according to my ability.
I am ready ... - I am prepared to preach among you, and to show the power of the gospel, even in the splendid metropolis of the world. He was not deterred by any fear; nor was he indifferent to their welfare; but he was under the direction of God. and as far as he gave him opportunity, he was ready to make known to them the gospel, as he had done at Antioch, Ephesus, Athens, and Corinth.
This closes the introduction or preface to the Epistle. Having shown his deep interest in their welfare, he proceeds in the next verse to state to them the great doctrines of that gospel which he was desirous of proclaiming to them.
and to the Barbarians—rude.I am debtor; as being obliged by virtue of my calling, and as being intrusted by God with talents to that purpose. You are not beholden to me for this desire, as if it were an arbitrary favour, for it is my bounden duty.
Both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; i.e. to all nations, which he divides into these two sorts, Greeks and Barbarians. The Jews he mentions not, because he was the doctor of the Gentiles.
Both to the wise, and to the unwise; by these he understands particular persons among the Greeks and Barbarians, for there were among either of them some wise, and some unwise. The gospel is adapted to all sorts of persons, whether wise or simple. Romans 1:16; but here they design only a part of the Gentiles, the inhabitants of Greece, in opposition to all the world besides; for the Greeks used to call all others that were not of themselves Barbarians (e): or else by Greeks are meant the more cultivated nations of the world, and by Barbarians the ruder and more uncivil parts of it; to which agrees the next division of mankind,
both to the wise and to the unwise. The Gospel was to be preached "to the wise"; such who thought themselves to be so, and were so with respect to human wisdom and knowledge; though it should be despised by them, as it was, and though few of them were called by it, some were, and still are, though not many; and such wisdom there is in the Gospel, as the wisest of men may learn by it, will be entertaining to them, is far beyond their contempt, and what will serve to exercise their talents and abilities, to search into the knowledge of, and rightly to understand; and it must be preached "to the unwise"; for such God has chosen to confound the wise; these he calls by his grace, and reveals his Gospel to, whilst he hides it from the wise and prudent; and there is that in the Gospel which is plain and easy to the weakest mind, enlightened by the Spirit of God.I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)Romans 1:14-15. Fuller explanation regarding the previous ἵνα τινὰ καρπ. σχῶ καὶ ἐν ὑμῖν, καθὼς καὶ ἐν τ. λοιπ. ἔθνεσιν.
Respecting βάρ βαροῖ (ὄνομα τὸ οὐχ Ἑλληνικόν, Ammonius), which, according to Greek feeling and usage, denotes generally all non-Greeks (Plat. Polit. p. 262 D)—all who were strangers to Greek nationality and language—see Dougt. Anal. II. p. 100 f.; Hermann, Staatsalterth. § 6, 1. How common it was to designate all nations by thus dividing them into Ἑλλ. κ. βάρβ., see in Wetstein and Kypke, with examples from Philo in Loesner, p. 243. Of course the Hellenes included the Jews also among the βάρβαροι (a view which is attributed even to Philo, but without sufficient ground), while the Jews in their turn applied this designation to the Hellenes. See Grimm on 2Ma 2:21, p. 61. Now it may be asked: did Paul include the Romans among the Ἕλληνες or among the βάρβαροι? The latter view is maintained by Reiche and Köllner, following older writers; the former is held by Ambrosiaster, Estius, Kypke, and others, and the former alone would be consistent with that delicacy which must be presumed on the Apostle’s part, as in fact, since Hellenic culture had become prevalent in Rome, especially since the time of Augustus, the Roman community was regarded from the Roman point of view as separated from the barbaria, and only nations like the Germans, Scythians, etc., were reckoned to belong to the latter. Comp Cicero, de fin. ii. 15, “non solum Graecia et Italia, sed etiam omnis barbaria. But the following σοφοῖς τε καὶ ἀνοήτοις, as also the circumstance that the Romans, although they separated themselves from the barbarians (Greek authors included them among these, Polyb. v. 104, 1, ix. 37, 5, Krebs and Kypke in loc), are nowhere reckoned among the Hellenes or designated as such, make it evident that the above question is to be entirely excluded here, and that Paul’s object is merely to set forth generally his obligation as Apostle of the Gentiles in its universality. This he does in the form of a twofold division, according to nationality, and according to condition of culture, so that the thought which he would express is: I am in duty bound to all Gentiles, without distinction of their nationality or of their culture; therefore I am ready, to you also etc.
ὀφειλέτης] Paul regards the divine obligation of office, received through Christ (Romans 1:5), as the undertaking of a debt, which he has to discharge by preaching the Gospel among all Gentile nations. Comp , in reference to this subject, Acts 26:17 f.; Galatians 2:7; 1 Corinthians 9:16.
οὕτω] so, that is, in accordance with this relation, by which I am in duty bound to the Ἕλλησι τ. κ. βαρβ., to the σοφ. τ. κ. ἀνοήτ. It does not refer to καθώς, Romans 1:13, which is dependent on the preceding καὶ ἐν ὑμῖν, but gathers up in itself the import of Ἕλλησι.… εἰμι: so then, ita, sic igitur. See Hermann, a Luc. de hist. conscr. p. 161; Buttmann, neut. Gr. p. 307. Bengel well says: “est quasi ephiphonema et illatio a toto ad partem insignem.”
The οὕτω τὸ κατʼ ἐμὲ πρόθυμον (sc ἐστί) is to be translated: accordingly, the inclination on my part [lit. the on-my-part inclination] is, so that τὸ belongs to πρόθυμον, though the expression τὸ κατʼ ἐμὲ πρόθυμον is not substantially different from the simple τὸ πρόθυμον μου, but only more significantly indicative of the idea that Paul on his part was willing, etc. Comp on Ephesians 1:15. He says therefore: in this state of the case the inclination which exists on his side is, to preach to the Romans also. At the same time κατʼ ἐμὲ is purposely chosen out of a feeling of dependence on a higher Will (Romans 1:10), rather than the simple τὸ πρόθυμον μου, instead of which τὸ ἐμοῦ πρόθυμον would come nearer to the expression by κατʼ ἐμέ. On the substantival πρόθυμον, in the sense of προθυμία, comp 3Ma 5:26; Plat. Leg. ix. p. 859 B; Eur. Med. 178; Thuc. iii. 82, 8; Herodian, vii. 3, 15. The above connection of τὸ.… πρόθυμον is adopted by Seb. Schmid, Kypke, Reiche, Fritzsche, Philippi, van Hengel, Mehring, and others. So also Th. Schott, who however takes οὕτω in a predicative sense; as does likewise Hofmann: Thus the case stands as to the fact and manner of the inclination on my part. This however is the less appropriate, because Romans 1:14 contains, not the mode, but the regulative basis of the προθυμία of Romans 1:15. If τὸ κατʼ ἐμέ be taken by itself, and not along with πρόθυμον, there would result the meaning: there is, so far as I am concerned, an inclination; comp de Wette. But, however correct in linguistic usage might be τὸ κατʼ ἐμέ (see Schaefer, a Bos. Ell. p. 278; Matthiae, p. 734), which would here yield the sense Proverbs mea virili, as in Dem. 1210, 20, the πρόθυμον without a verb would stand abruptly and awkwardly, because not the mere copula ἐστί, but ἐστί in the sense of πάρεστι, adest, would require to be supplied. Beza, Grotius, Bengel, Tholuck, Rückert, Köllner, Baumgarten-Crusius, take τὸ κατʼ ἐμέ as a periphrasis for ἐγώ, so that πρόθυμον must be taken as the predicate (I on my part am disposed). Without sanction from the usus loquendi; what is cited by Köllner from Vigerus, p. 7 f., and by Tholuck, is of a wholly different kind. The Greek would express this meaning by τὸ γʼ ἐμὸν πρόθυμον (Stallbaum, a Plat. Rep. p. 533 A).
καὶ ὑμῖν] as also included in that general obligation of mine; and not: although ye belong to the σοφοί (Bengel, Philippi), which the text does not suggest. But τοῖς ἐν Ῥώμῃ is added with emphasis, since Rome (“caput et theatrum orbis terrarum,” Bengel) could least of all be exempted from the task assigned to the Apostle of the Gentiles. Hofmann erroneously holds (comp Mangold, p. 84) that Paul addresses the readers by ὑμῖν, not in their character as Christians, but as Romans, and that εὐαγγελίσασθαι means the preaching to those still unconverted; comp Th. Schott, p. 91. No, he addresses the Christian church in Rome, to which he has not yet preached, but wishes to preach, the tidings of salvation, which they have up to the present time received from others. As in every verse, from the 6th to the 13th, so also here the ὑμεῖς can only be the κλητοὶ Ἰ. Χ., Romans 1:6 f., in Rome. See besides, against Mangold, Beyschlag in the Stud. u. Krit. 1867, p. 642 f.
 n loc. refers to the note of the commentator or editor named on the particular passage.
 d refers to the note of the commentator or editor named on the particular passage.
 c. scilicet.
 d refers to the note of the commentator or editor named on the particular passage.
 d refers to the note of the commentator or editor named on the particular passage.Romans 1:14 f. These verses are naturally taken as an expansion of the thought contained in the preceding. Paul’s desire to win fruit at Rome, as among the rest of the Gentiles, arises out of the obligation (for so he feels it) to preach the Gospel to all men without distinction of language or culture. If it depended only on him, he would be exercising his ministry at Rome. The Romans are evidently conceived as Gentiles, but Paul does not indicate where they would stand in the broad classification of Romans 1:14. It is gratuitous, and probably mistaken, to argue with Weiss that he meant to describe them as βάρβαροι, when we know that the early Roman Church was Greek speaking. In τὸ κατʼ ἐμὲ πρόθυμον, the simplest construction is to make τὸ κατʼ ἐμὲ subject and πρόθυμον predicate, supplying ἐστι: all that depends on me is eager, i.e., for my part, I am all readiness. But it is possible to take τὸ κατʼ ἐμὲ πρόθυμον together, and to translate: the readiness, so far as I am concerned, (is) to preach the Gospel to you also who are in Rome. The contrast implied is that between willing (which Paul for his part is equal to) and carrying out the will (which depends on God (Romans 1:10)). With this Paul introduces the great subject of the epistle, and, in a sense, of the Gospel—that which he here designates δικαιοσύνη θεοῦ. The connection is peculiar. He has professed his readiness to preach the Gospel, even at Rome. Anywhere, no doubt, one might have misgivings about identifying himself with a message which had for its subject a person who had been put to death as a criminal; anywhere, the Cross was to Jews a stumbling block and to Greeks foolishness. But at Rome, of all places, where the whole effective force of humanity seemed to be gathered up, one might be ashamed to stand forth as the representative of an apparently impotent and ineffective thing. But this the Gospel is not; it is the very reverse of this, and therefore the Apostle is proud to identify himself with it. “I am not ashamed of the Gospel; for it is a power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth. It is such because there is revealed in it δικαιοσύνη θεοῦ—the very thing men need to ensure salvation; and that in such a manner—from faith to faith—as to make it accessible to all. And this, again, only answers to what stands in the O.T.—It is written, the righteous shall live by faith.”14. I am debtor] i.e. “I owe it to them to impart to them the Gospel.” See 1 Corinthians 9:16-17; where St Paul speaks as a “dispenser” or “steward” of the Gospel, who is absolutely bound (“it is laid on me”) to give the “portion of food in due season” to those whom he can reach.
the Greeks, and to the Barbarians] A familiar division of mankind. Barbarus originally meant “a speaker of an unintelligible tongue;” then, in Greek, the speaker of a language not Greek. Thus the Romans were as much barbari as the Scythians; and indeed in the older Latin writers we find the word used by themselves, with reference to their own language, as a sort of synonym for “non-Greek.” But when Rome more and more added culture to power the word was practically restricted to nations other than Greek and Latin, and so probably here. The word “Greeks” (Hellenes), in such contrasts as this, had come, by St Paul’s time, to include Romans. Every educated Roman was trained in Greek speech and literature. Some of the “Roman” Christians were no doubt true Hellenes, and, as a body, evidently, they understood Greek. See Introd. ii. § 2.
the wise, and to the unwise] Practically, the cultured and the uneducated. He contemplates literary hearers on one side, and on the other rude tribes, and peasantry and workmen, and women and children. The word rendered “unwise” is a strong one; elsewhere (e.g. Luke 24:25; Galatians 3:1; Titus 3:3;) rendered “fools,” “foolish,” or the like. Here the Apostle probably uses it as from the point of view of the “wise:”—“those whom the philosopher would think to be mind-less.”Romans 1:14. Ἑλλησί τε καὶ βαρβάροις, alike to the Greeks and to the barbarians). He reckons those among the Greeks, to whom he is writing in the Greek language. This division into Greeks and barbarians comprehends the entire Gentile world. There follows another division, alike to the wise and to the unwise; for there were fools even among the Greeks, and also wise men even among the Barbarians. To all, he says, I am debtor, by virtue of my divine commission to all, as being the servant of all (2 Corinthians 4:5.) Though men excel in wisdom or in power, the Gospel is still necessary to them; others [beside the wise and powerful] are not excluded.—(Colossians 1:28, note.)Verses 14, 15. - Both to Greeks and Barbarians, both to wise and unwise, I am debtor. So, as much as is in me, to you also that are at Rome, I am ready to preach the gospel. The two divisions of mankind into
(1) Ἔλληνες καὶ Βάρβαροι,
(2) σοφοὶ καὶ ἀνοήτοι, are intended to include all, independently of nationality and culture, regarded from a Greek or Roman point of view. The Greeks, as is well known, called all others than themselves Βάρβαροι, so that Ἕλληνεσ καὶ Βάρβαροι included the whole world. Here the Romans are intended to be included among Ἕλληνες, being partakers in Hellenic culture, and in fact at that time its prominent representatives (el. "Non solum Graecia et Italia, sod etiam omnis barbaria," Cicero, 'De Fin.,' 2:15). Of course, σοφοὶ also includes them. The obvious intention of the writer is to place them in each of the higher categories, and so, while after his manner he pays his expected readers a delicate compliment, to insist that his mission is to the highest in position and culture as well as the lowest, cud that, bold in his convictions, he is not ashamed to preach the cross even to them. "Audax facinus ad crucem vocare terrarum Dominos" (Alex. More. quoted by Olshausen).
All men, without distinction of nation or culture, are Paul's creditors, "He owes them his life, his person, in virtue of the grace bestowed upon him, and of the office which he has received." (Godet).
Greeks - Barbarians
Gentiles without distinction. Paul takes the conventional Greek division of all mankind into Greeks and non-Greeks. See on Acts 6:1. The question whether he includes the Romans among the Greeks or the Barbarians, is irrelevant.
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